Category Archives: Crisis Communications

Steve Harvey’s Epic Blunder – A Crisis Communications Game Plan

Comedian and television personality, Steve Harvey made the verbal blunder that is resonating around the world while hosting the Miss Universe pageant when he announced the wrong winner. Harvey in announcing the winner of the contest announced that Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo was the winner only moments later to announce that she was first runner up and Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurzbach was the actual winner. Compounding the blunder was the fact that Arevalo had already been crowned and had to suffer the indignity of having the crown removed. Social media and traditional media exploded. Conspiracy theories surfaced that it was all a plot to attract attention to the Miss Universe pageant.

Harvey admitted that it was his mistake, calling it a human error and apologized to both contestants which is the proper response in any crisis. He then took to Twitter to apologize again only to misspell both Colombia and Philippines. This created yet another controversy. So great was the gaffe, that Justin Bieber took to Twitter to mock Harvey. With this falling on the start of the slow Christmas news week it is guaranteed to dominate social media and the news for the next few days.

So what should both Harvey and the Miss Universe pageant do in terms of crisis communications?

For Harvey, I would recommend the following strategy:

  1. An interview on one of the morning television shows explaining what happened and apologizing again. In the interview I would recommend that he use his famed humor in poking fun at himself.
  2. Use the interview to bring the focus back on the two contestants where it should be and praise them.
  3. Draft a new correctly spelled apology for social media.
  4. Personally call Miss Colombia and apologize and send her several dozen roses which knowing him, he probably already has done,
  5. Stop talking about the incident.

What should the Miss Universe Pageant do?

They should announce that they are having two Miss Universe winners this year. This would come across as a class act and earn the pageant renewed respect.

The one true winner from this gaffe has been Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo who has handled the situation with class and tact, applauding the winner and congratulating her and not criticizing anyone. She has been a lesson in grace under pressure.

The Miss Universe Pageant is being talked about more as a result of this then it has been in the past several years. How it and Harvey respond to this crisis will determine do they emerge as true winners or the butt of late night comedians’ jokes for weeks and indeed years.


Donald Trump’s Communications Strategy – Is the End Near?

Businessman and Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump continues to dominate the media as he has since announcing for president. His latest firestorm is his proposal to ban Muslims seeking to enter the United States. Trump made his proposal as the focus of the campaign has shifted to terrorism following the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. Trump’s proposal has created a firestorm with fellow candidates, House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Vice President Dick Cheney, foreign leaders, and the White House all condemning it. Pundits are predicting this latest from Trump will spell his demise. Yet despite this, Trump is not backing down and all campaign coverage is about him drowning out his opponents. So far voters are still backing him and in many ways he seems to have a better understanding of what is motivating voters than experienced politicians.

So how should Trump proceed from a communications point on this proposal?

  1. Ignore his critics and stand by his proposal. His proposal is audacious, outrageous, decisive, unrepentant, and brash all in one. It also falls in line with what the Trump brand is all about and why so many voters have bought into it.
  2. Continue in his interviews and the upcoming debates to point out that his plan is no more extreme than Franklin Delano Roosevelt interning Japanese-Americans during World War II. But go beyond that and point out that we are engaged in a real war with radical Islam and during previous times of war that American leaders have gone to extreme – Lincoln suspending habeas corpus during the Civil War and Woodrow Wilson jailing war critics and deporting radicals during World War I.
  3. Point out that the job of the President is to save lives and if his action saves one American life and thwarts one terror attack the price is worth it.
  4. Point out that his proposal is for the duration of the war against ISIS and then will expire.
  5. Point out that the Obama Administration has failed not only to destroy but even contain ISIS.
  6. Emphasize that we are war and war is not pretty or politically correct.
  7. State that he is who he is, he isn’t politically correct but a decisive leader and this is what this nation needs.
  8. Challenge his critics to show a plan that would be foolproof to prevent terrorists from entering the nation.

Donald Trump has billed his candidacy on the fact that he isn’t politically correct but is a strong leader in a time that America needs just that. With his master showmanship, he has caught the attention of voters by appealing to them on the issues that matter most to them in language that they understand. He has shown that he knows the most important rule of communications – know your audience, a fact the other candidates have failed to grasped. If he communicates his latest proposal convincingly, not only will he be poised to win the Republican nomination but perhaps the White House as well.

The Republican Party’s Trump Messaging Strategy – What’s Next?

Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump has set off yet again another media firestorm. The Republican frontrunner has called for all Muslims seeking to enter the United States to be barred from doing so. This came as the focus of the presidential campaign has turned to terrorism after the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California and what many see as the Obama Administration’s ineffectual response to the war on terror. Polls show anti-Muslim sentiment on the rise in the United States as a result of the attacks. Trump’s Republican rivals many condemned his proposal as have other leading Republicans such as former Vice President Cheney. Florida Congressman David Jolly, a candidate for the United States Senate has called for Trump to withdraw from the presidential race because of his stand. Pundits believe that this stunt will cost both Trump and the Republican Party.

So what should the Republican message be in response to Donald Trump?

  1. Condemn him and his antics once and for all as having no place within the Republican Party. They have become a distraction from serious issues facing the nation.
  2. Refuse to let him participate in the debates. One of the sources of Trump’s success is his access to free media especially the debates.
  3. Have House Speaker Paul Ryan address the nation on the Republican position on the war against terror.
    1. Ryan should point out we are not at war against Muslims but radical Islam in the form of ISIS. In doing so, he should point out how during the Cold War, every President from Truman to Reagan made the point that it was the Soviet system of government not the Russian people that were opposed too. In World War II, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Dwight Eisenhower made it clear that it was the Axis leadership not the peoples of Japan, Germany, and Italy.
    2. That discriminating against any religion or ethnicity is wrong and goes against not only the values of America but that upon which the Party of Abraham Lincoln was founded.
    3. Explain that this is a war and there will be civilian casualties. It can’t be fought by words but by strong actions and define how Republicans if elected will differ from both Donald Trump and President Obama in prosecuting and winning the war.
    4. Arrange for Republican leaders and figures from the Reagan and the two Bush Administrations along with Tea Party leaders to address the Trump issue and state that his words are an insult to the memory of Ronald Reagan and if Reagan was alive today he would denounce Trump.
    5. Dare Donald Trump to run as an independent if he wants too but let him and the American people know there is no room for him in the Republican Party.
    6. Use humor to belittle him not his followers.

Donald Trump is a showman and also a bully. In some ways he is reminiscent of Joe McCarthy. Attacking him as Republicans have done by treating him as an equal and with seriousness has failed. Rather they should take a page out of their two greatest post-war Presidents – Eisenhower and Reagan. Isolate Trump and use humor at his expense, in doing that and the above mentioned strategy, Trumpamania will disappear and Republicans will be stronger with America at large and it will be their Sister Soulja moment.

Jared Fogle / Subway Saga: The Crash and Burn of a Spokesperson

Jared Fogle has probably eaten his last Subway sandwich for a long time to come. If the restaurant chain has anything to do with it, Fogle will never step foot into another Subway ever again.   Fogle who served as Subway’s public face for 15 years pleaded guilty to child pornography charges. Federal prosecutors said Fogle travelled to have sex acts with at least 14 children. Subway announced it was terminating its relationship with Fogle in a terse statement released on Twitter and Facebook. The Fogle/Subway case shows the dangers of celebrity spokespersons becoming interchangeable with a brand and also on how not to handle a crisis situation.

Jared Fogle shot to fame when his story of losing over 200 pounds went public. Fogle based his weight loss on visiting a Subway restaurant and ordering a low-fat sandwich. From that sandwich on, he dropped more than 200 pounds in about a year while eating Subway’s turkey subs and veggie subs with no mayonnaise and cheese. When Subway learned of his story, he became the face of Subway promoting their healthy alternatives to fast food. His story became the Subway story. Consumers identified with his everyman story and could relate to his weight struggle. Franchise owners reported increased sales when commercials and other promotional material featuring Fogle ran. All told he made over 50 television commercials for the chain. The company hyped him as the perfect family man whose values were those of Subway. To the public, Fogle and Subway were one and the same. Fogle, was known as “Jared from Subway.” His Wikipedia page calls him “the Subway Guy.

On July 7th, that all came crashing down for Fogle and Subway. The FBI, Indiana State Police and the U.S. Postal Service raided Fogle’s home seizing electronic equipment with the clear implication from media reports that he was suspected of being involved in child pornography. A Florida woman came forward and said that Fogle had made remarks to her that were so inappropriate and shocking that she had contacted law enforcement officials. This happened two months after Russell Taylor, the former executive director of the Jared Foundation, which Fogle started to raise awareness to and combat childhood obesity, was arrested on federal child pornography charges. Overnight, Fogle became the punch line for late night comedians with Subway included in the jokes. There was also a sense of public revulsion.

Subway announced it was merely suspending its relationship with Fogle. That was the company’s first mistake. It should have immediately terminated its relationship with Fogle. Whether true or not, there was no way that Fogle could ever again be an effective spokesperson for Subway and the longer the public perceived that Subway was looking to bring him back the more tarnished the brand was. There are three things that a brand or individual never fully recover from – a scandal with animals; a scandal with race; and a scandal with children.

Finally hours before Fogle was due to plead guilty Subway announced via social media, “We no longer have a relationship with Jared and have no further comment.” No expression of sympathy for the 14 victims of Fogle. No expressions of condemnation at Fogle’s actions and the fact that he had lied to the public and Subway when the allegations surfaced. Additionally they referred to Fogle as Jared reinforcing in the public’s mind that longtime association and sense of chumminess with Fogle. That Subway doesn’t even use Fogle’s last name in its post about is a sharp reminder of just how associated with each other the two entities became. Social media has been sharply critical of Subway for its response.

Erasing the image of Jared with Subway will not be easy. After all the two have been associated for 15 years. Yet had Subway terminated its relationship when the investigation began, the company would have been six weeks ahead in rebranding and distancing itself from Fogle. Now they face the worst of both worlds – Fogle is gone and damaged beyond repair; the company must rebrand, and in its handling of the situation came across as curt and uncaring for child victims.

The Fogle/Subway saga is a cautionary tale for any brand that becomes identified with its spokesperson. The brand sinks or swims with that person’s reputation. And in this world of social media, people expect brands to express remorse and regrets during a crisis such as Subway has faced with Fogle.

Internet Vigilantism – The Horrific Murder of Cecil the Lion

The senseless and horrific murder of Cecil the Lion has outraged the world. It was a reprehensible act. Walter Palmer, the hunter who killed the beloved lion is the subject of hatred and contempt. There was no justification for what he and his guides did and hopefully there will be some way he can be held accountable and punished legally. Yet Walter Palmer brings up a subject that crisis communications experts are dealing with frequently in this digital age – internet vigilantism.

Internet vigilantism is where people use social media and the internet to publicly shame and humiliate brands or individuals that have done something that is perceived unacceptable. In the case of Palmer this has meant giving out his work address that led to protests outside his office, reviews on Yelp, and even actress Mia Farrow tweeting his home address. As a result of the worldwide outrage, Palmer closed his office and brought down his website and social media pages.

Internet vigilantism creates havoc and is often wrong. Just ask the residents of Steubenville, Ohio. The residents of Steubenville, Ohio, a town that became the target of Internet “hacktivists” following rape charges against two teenage boys, described their community as “destroyed” by online vigilantes pushing for what they considered justice. (The case, later accounts suggested, was far more complicated than bloggers online seemed to realize.) Masked strangers spooked Steubenville children by hiding in their lawn; hackers broke into the Steubenville police chief’s email, then posted a photo of him in a G-string; and an anonymous threat temporarily shut down Steubenville schools.

Another case of internet vigilantism gone wrong was when Adria Richards who was employed by SendGrid, an email delivery company, overheard two men joking during a crowded presentation. Richards was offended by the joke and took a picture of the two men who were making jokes. She tweeted, “Not cool. Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and “big” dongles. Right behind me #pycon.” She also attached a photo of the two men making the jokes. One of the men was fired after her tweet. But then it got interesting, it turned out the men were not joking about sexual matters. Then the internet vigilantes turned not just on Richards but on her employer as well. SendGrid became caught not just in a media firestorm but an online one as well.

Companies like SenGrid find themselves in the crosshairs often not just because of something the company or one of its executives has done but because of actions of employees that the company is often unaware of. A post on Facebook or tweet by an employee of a company can create a pitchfork mentality.

And then there are customers and clients. One dissatisfied consumer can create an internet vigilante crowd for a company. A client who feels that they did not get everything they were entitled too or who could never be sasitified can take to social media creating an internet vigilante mob. More and more we are seeing this crowd take to Yelp and post negative reviews about companies. Yelp does have filters in place to spot fake reviews, but as we are seeing in Palmer’s case it is easy to get pass them. While Palmer did something atrocious, the problem is the next business that is the target of internet vigilantism may not yet reviews on Yelp will affect their business. The problem is that it’s hard to verify the legitimacy of reviews even when the business is a target of internet vigilantism. I know of one company that was the target of this vigilante justice that it had to set up a page on its website just to address the negative Yelp reviews. Often the attacks are so severe that businesses are forced to shut down or relocate.

Internet vigilantism is a phenomenon that is here to stay. With more review sites like Yelp popping up the damage internet vigilantism can cause a business during a crisis is immense and even longer lasting and more damaging then negative media stories. Crisis communications experts are going to have to develop a strategy for it in all future crisis communications plans for clients.

How Not To Manage A Crisis – TLC

When a crisis hits, a brand wants to respond quickly, sincerely in addressing the crisis and demonstrate how they are working to ensure that what happened will not occur in the future. For example, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the issue of domestic abuse among NFL players within days of the media firestorm and announced the NFL would be working with domestic abuse advocacy groups to bring greater awareness of domestic abuse and its prevention. All of this is essential in rebuilding a brand after a crisis.

TLC, the television network showed what not to do in rebuilding a brand after a crisis. The network has been the subject of severe criticism for its handling (or mishandling) of the scandal involving Josh Duggar of TLC’s number one show, “19 Kids and Counting”.

Josh Duggar admitted in May to sexually molesting underage girls including several of his sisters. While the admissions were shocking, they should not have been to TLC. These allegations about him have been around for a number of years. The Oprah Winfrey Show was aware of these rumors and reportedly contacted a child protection hotline.

Yet when the story broke last week, surprisingly TLC did not seem to realize the intensity of public revulsion and anger that would develop. The day Duggar admitted to sexually molesting underage girls and apologized for his actions, TLC was running a “19 Kids and Counting” marathon. Sponsors were quick to pull away from the show but not TLC. Only belatedly did the network announce that it was pulling the show from its schedule but not necessarily canceling it. The network also issued a tepid note of sympathy towards Duggar’s victims.

On July 16th, nearly two months after the scandal broke and sponsors deserted in swarms did TLC finally announce it was cancelling “19 Kids and Counting”. On July 17th, TLC announced that it was teaming up with two prominent child-protection organizations for an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about child sexual abuse. The multi-platform initiative will begin with a one-hour, commercial-free documentary likely airing in late August, the network said. It will include the participation of Jill and Jessa Duggar, two of the sisters Josh Duggar touched inappropriately, as well as other survivors and families affected by such abuse. This is all part of repositioning the network as “a brand with purpose” TLC claimed in a press release.

The public reaction has been one of deep skepticism and disbelief. This belated attempt in dealing with the crisis has caused even more bad coverage for the network.

So what did TLC do wrong?

  1. Waited too long in announcing it was cancelling the show. Any scandal involving children is something that nobody ever recovers from. TLC should have immediately cancelled the show and issued a strong statement expressing outrage and condemnation at Josh Duggar’s actions and strong sympathy for his victims. Rather by delaying the cancellation, TLC gave the impression fairly or unfairly that it was hoping that the storm would subside and it could bring back its number one rated show. There was no way possible that this could happen. The longer that TLC waited the worse it became for the network. Cancelling the show two months after the scandal broke was too little, too lat.
  2. Casting Jill and Jessa Duggar in its August special about child sexual abuse. Speculation has been rampant since the scandal broke, that TLC would cast the two in their own spinoff show in an attempt to keep the show around and its ratings. By having Jill and Jessa Duggar in this special it gives the appearance of being done for ratings and also to set the stage for a spinoff for the two. TLC still has not said if will or won’t launch a spinoff with Jill and Jessa Duggar.
  3. Fail to show that it really gets what was wrong and address allegations that the network knew well in advance about Josh Duggar. As long as these suspicions remain, the TLC brand is tarnished.

TLC has a long way to go before the public believes that it is “a brand with purpose” outside of high ratings. Other brands can take note from it on what not to do.

Planned Parenthood in Crisis Mode

Planned Parenthood is in a crisis mode and attempting to launch a public relations counterattack after an undercover video surfaced that seems to indicate that the organization sells fetal tissue from abortions to researchers for a profit. Such action if true would be illegal.

The video was released by the Center for Medical Progress on Tuesday. It shows two undercover CMP activists posing as employees from a biotech company having lunch with Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, and discussing about which body parts are in demand. In the video, Nucatola is seen and heard discussing Planned Parenthood’s policy of donating fetal tissue to researchers. The activists ask Nucatola whether clinics charge for the organs, which she skirts around.

The language is graphic. “Yesterday was the first time she said people wanted lungs,” Nucatola says. “Some people want lower extremities, too, which, that’s simple. That’s easy. I don’t know what they’re doing with it, I guess if they want muscle.”

Nucatola discusses how they are able to get other organs without “crushing” them. “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

Conservative politicians rushed to condemn Planned Parenthood and demand a cutoff of federal funding and investigations into the organization. But even some in the medical and research community expressed deep reservations about Planned Parenthood and Nucatola. Planned Parenthood is denying it sells organs for profits and is attacking the Center for Medical Progress.

This whole lessons for those in public relations.

  1. In this day and age of smartphones nothing is ever off the record. Someone may be recording a client without the client knowing it and it that tape may appear on social media or in the media. In addition to Planned Parenthood, think Mitt Romney and Donald Sterling.
  2. Various issue advocacy groups on both sides of the aisle are sending undercover members to businesses and associations hoping to catch executives saying something embarrassing or awkward. This trend will continue.
  3. Social media and non-traditional news sites are becoming dumping grounds for stories that once they go viral, the traditional media picks up and reports with a vengeance since they felt they have been scooped and must make up for that lapse.
  4. A good defense is not always a good offense. Planned Parenthood’s response to this video has been more to attack the Center for Medical Progress and conservatives who are criticizing the group rather then to provide a detailed rebuttal and provide Nucatola to the media for questioning. The organization seems to be sidestepping the major issue raised in the video that is leading even supporters of abortion to question it.
  5. Emotional issues such as abortion need to be dealt with sensitivity. Planned Parenthood in its response has come across angry which doesn’t sit well with many people even some of its supporters. A more nuanced response addressing concerns people might have would have served the organization much better.

Social media, bloggers, and citizen activists drive the news in this 24/7 news cycle. Brands and organizations need to realize that and that they may be a target of this and the old rules of journalism don’t apply with these people. Failing to realize that may put you in the same boat Planned Parenthood is in currently.

The Danger Of Tying A Brand To One Person – Subway and Jared

Many brands base their marketing and publicity strategies on a public spokesperson. Lincoln has Matthew McConaughey. Priceline has William Shatner of Star Trek fame. Wendy’s used its CEO, Dave Thomas before his death. Men’s Warehouse used its founder, George Zimmer until he was ousted from the company. Very often the brand becomes identified with its spokesperson. To the public, the spokesperson equals the brand, its products and values. A brand’s reputation rises or falls with its spokesperson.

Subway, the restaurant chain is finding the downside of having a spokesperson as its public face. Jared Fogle shot to fame when his story of losing over 200 pounds went public. Fogle based his weight loss on visiting a Subway restaurant and ordering a low-fat sandwich. From that sandwich on, he dropped more than 200 pounds in about a year while eating Subway’s turkey subs and veggie subs with no mayonnaise and cheese. When Subway learned of his story, he became the face of Subway promoting their healthy alternatives to fast food. His story became the Subway story. Consumers identified with his everyman story and could relate to his weight struggle. Franchise owners reported increased sales when commercials and other promotional material featuring Fogle ran. All told he made over 50 television commercials for the chain. The company hyped him as the perfect family man whose values were those of Subway. To the public, Fogle and Subway were one and the same.

On July 7th, that perception became a nightmare for Subway. The FBI, Indiana State Police and the U.S. Postal Service raided Fogle’s home seizing electronic equipment with the clear implication from media reports that he was suspected of being involved in child pornography. A Florida woman came forward and said that Fogle had made remarks to her that were so inappropriate and shocking that she had contacted law enforcement officials. This happened two months after Russell Taylor, the former executive director of the Jared Foundation, which Fogle started to raise awareness to and combat childhood obesity, was arrested on federal child pornography charges. Fogle has not been arrested and his attorney issued a statement saying he is cooperating with authorities. Overnight, Fogle became the punch line for late night comedians with Subway included in the jokes. There was also a sense of public revulsion.

Subway issued a statement expressing shock at the events that had unfolded. Then the restaurant chain went further and announced that they were suspending it relationship with Fogle but they were not terminating it.

The question for Subway is what do they do next?

  1. They need to terminate their relationship with Fogle straight out. Whether Fogle is cleared or not, he is damaged goods and will remain so. Comedians will continue to joke about him and if Subway remains connected with him, Subway will be included in those jokes. There are three things people cannot fully recover from – scandals involving race, animals, and children. The sooner Subway formally severs all ties with Fogle, the better for the company.
  2. Develop a new branding strategy that doesn’t focus on any single person but rather on the company’s food and brand. Or if they want a person as the spokesperson have that person be Suzanne Greco, Subway’s president and sister of founder and CEO Fred DeLuca,
  3. Refresh the look of Subway and introduce new menu items with the new strategy the company is launching.
  4. Support organizations that battle exploitation of children.
  5. Develop a crisis communications strategy and have it in place if and when Fogle is indicted that separates the company totally from Fogle and condemns such actions that he may have committed.

The Jared Fogle/Subway story is a cautionary tale for a brand becoming to identified with its spokesperson. The important thing to remember when using a spokesperson as the face of the brand, the brand’s fortunes becomes tied with that person for both good and bad.

#SonyHack: Damage Control?…Reputation Management?

Sony has been a company under siege for the past several weeks. The company suffered a severe security breach.   Compromised were employee’s social security numbers, children’s medical records, and confidential emails from Sony executives.

The emails of top Sony executives were leaked to the media. Some emails revealed how Alex Trebek threatened to leave Jeopardy. Others spoke critically of stars such as Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington. Then there were the racially charged emails between producer, Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal, Sony’s Chairman regarding President Obama.

The breach was committed by the Guardians of Peace, believed to be connected to the North Korean government. The group and the North Korea government were protesting the Sony comedy film “The Interview” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen who are recruited by the CIA to kill North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un while doing an interview. North Korea considers the film that shows the assassination of Kim Jong-un as an act of war.   Both the Guardians of Peace and North Korea were demanding that the film be pulled. Sony insisted the film would not be pulled. Then after terroristic threats were made against movie theaters if they showed the film, the largest theater chains announced they would not be showing the film. On Wednesday, Sony announced that they were pulling “The Interview” and had no plans to the release the film.

The backlash against Sony for pulling “The Interview” has been enormous. Sony has given every sign that it caved in and appeased the repressive Stalinist North Korean regime. The security breach that Sony had suffered had garnered headlines with the leaks about Sony executives trashing major Hollywood stars but that was more an inside Hollywood crisis that required damage control within the industry. Consumer opinion for the most part, was not affected negatively or positively towards Sony because of the hacked emails. Sony even had defenders within the industry such as Brad Pitt and Aaron Sorkin over the hacked emails. With the cancellation of “The Interview” there has not been a voice raised in the company’s defense. Consumer attitudes towards Sony have been affected by the cancellation of the film and what many see as appeasement of North Korea.

So what if anything should Sony do to repair its image?

  1. Amy Pascal or another leading Sony executive needs to speak publicly and explain the company’s decision for pulling the film. When we think of Sony Entertainment we forget it is part of Sony, a Japanese company. In Japan, unlike in the United States, North Korea is seen as a clear and present threat. Missile tests by North Korea often go over Japan and it wasn’t too long ago that North Korea would snatch Japanese citizens off of Japanese beaches to be used as translators. If it was because of pressure from the parent company and fears of North Korean retaliation against Japan that needs to be explained. Whatever led to this decision Sony needs to explain fully and in detail.
  2. Announce a new release sate for “The Interview” in theaters or if the chains will not carry the film, a video release
  3. Support of various human rights campaigns that seek to bring change in North Korea.
  4. Reach out to key Hollywood talent, explain the company’s decision and ask for support.
  5. Replace the current management with a new team who vow to bring a new corporate culture to the company and vow never to allow outside forces threaten the company’s integrity.

The Sony PR crisis will play out over the next several days. For the company it could not have happened at a worst time – the slow holiday season. That is why it essential the company take immediate steps to repair its image not over the security breach (that a majority of Americans could care less about) but by what many see as appeasement of North Korea (something that disturbs a great majority of Americans). If the company doesn’t take steps at once, it will spend the start of 2015 in damage control mode.

The Bill Cosby Brand: A Legacy of Shame

As we enter the Thanksgiving week (traditionally a slow news time) the public relations crisis confronting comedian, Bill Cosby continues to escalate and will very likely dominate much of the holiday news cycle. Sixteen women have come forward alleging that Cosby, who has long been an American icon, sexually assaulted or even raped them, often drugging them during the encounters. Cosby has refused to address the issue claiming he doesn’t respond to innuendos. His attorney has claimed that many of the allegations which are decades old are being raised with the intent to get money from Cosby.

Yet Cosby’s refusal to address the allegations is not stopping the damage to his brand among the public and the television networks. NBC which had aired the Cosby Show in the 1990s, (a show that made his character, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, one of the most popular television dads ever) announced it was cancelling plans for a 2015 sitcom with Cosby. TV Land pulled reruns of the Cosby Show from their schedule. Netflix announced that a comedy special that they had taped with Cosby to air on November 28th had been postponed indefinitely. Several venues where Cosby was to perform his comedy routine cancelled his appearances. Among the public is a growing perception that Cosby’s silence is a tacit admission.

Damage has been done to the Cosby brand. At this point in his career, these allegations will remain attached to his brand and his legacy unless totally disproven.

So what if anything can Cosby do?

If these allegations are totally baseless, he must address them head on. A spokesperson issuing a blanket denial or a general denial by Cosby himself will not be sufficient. He or his spokesperson must refute each allegation in detail. Nothing else will satisfy the media, sponsors, networks, and the public. The allegations are so devastating that only a detailed response disproving them will stop the firestorm. This means that if Cosby had sex with the women but it was consensual it must be addressed. Cosby has to recognize that unless he can absolutely disprove the allegations his reputation will be tarnished.

If there is any validity to these allegations, Cosby still has to address them and beg for forgiveness. Then he needs to cancel all appearances and realize his career as he knew it is over.

Or he can continue to remain silent. Under such circumstances he should cancel appearances at colleges where violence against women is a major issue as the image of Cosby speaking there when under this could is totally inappropriate.

Silence though in the long term will not work for Cosby. Brands and celebrities should learn from Cosby on what not to do. Not addressing a crisis either by denying it or accepting responsibility and asking forgiveness is seen as an admission of guilt. Silence also creates a greater media firestorm and crisis as Cosby is finding out. The longer that Cosby stays silent the longer the media will address this story.